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Browning Harvey Limited is celebrating 85 years in the production of soft drinks, making this a perfect time to reflect on the Company’s proud history, the foundation of which is steeped in Newfoundland tradition and built upon family values.
Early 1860’s
The firm of G. Browning & Son Limited was founded by Gilbert Browning of Scotland. Its original premises were located on historic Barter’s Hill in St. John’s. In the early 1860’s, this building was destroyed by fire and a new site was chosen on the east side of Steer’s Cove in St. John’s – another Newfoundland landmark.
The firm of A. Harvey & Co. was established in 1865 by Alexander J. Harvey who operated a bakery and had local and international marine shipping interests. The Company also had involvement with the seal fishery, fuel merchants and natural resource development.
In 1867, Gilbert Browning’s son, James, entered the business and the premises were moved to Riverhead, St. John’s West. Sadly, this factory was also, shortly afterward, destroyed by fire. However, in the tradition of carrying on in the face of adversity, the building was rebuilt in brick and is still in use today.
In 1910, Mr. Harvey’s two sons, Gerald and Reginald, entered the business. Also at the beginning of the century, the Company began manufacturing bread for the marine trade which expanded into soda crackers and sweet and fancy biscuits.
Gilbert Browning died in 1882 and James Browning in 1885. From that date, the business was handled by James’ brother, the Hon. John Browning until he passed away in 1924. Manufacturing continued on the premises of each of the founding companies, hard bread and plain biscuits being produced in the east end plant while the west end plant was equipped to manufacture a large variety of biscuits.
When Mr. Harvey passed away in 1928, his sons stepped up to the helm.
A similar business was operated by a competitor, G. Browning & Sons. In 1931, the firms amalgamated with Gerald Harvey and James Crawford as joint managing directors. Gerald Harvey was succeeded by his brother, Reginald, and when Mr. Crawford retired from management a few years after, Reginald continued as president and managing director until he passed away in 1957. In 1931, Browning Harvey Limited opened a small bottling plant adjacent to the west end biscuit factory and started to bottle Browning Harvey flavours.
In 1944, Reginald C. Harvey obtained a Pepsi-Cola Franchise from the Pepsi Company in New York. A few years later a Suncrest flavor franchise was obtained from the Stutz family of Toronto.
In 1951 a modern one million dollar bottling plant was built on the east corner of Mill Lane and Water Street. Sales grew fast.
A larger, more modern plant was built on Ropewalk Lane in 1963. This present plant is 140,000 sq. ft. with the most up-to-date bottling equipment in the world.